Highway 47 Revisited at HERE Arts Center
Ever since Peter Stuyvesant arrived on the shores of Manahatta in 1647 to oversee the expansion of New Amsterdam, real estate development and land entitlement have been woven deep into the fabric of the city’s identity. From the eminent domain land grab that gave rise to The Barclays Center now towering over downtown Brooklyn, to Columbia University’s acquisition of 17 acres of land ribboning West Harlem for its Manhattanville Campus, to NYU’s relentless encroachment, questions of who can claim land ownership and who sets the agendas for its use have loomed large over the city.
These questions, which have particular resonance in NYC these days, are hardly limited to our city. In fact while the Dutch were busy constructing New Amsterdam, the Spanish were busy colonizing New Mexico. To this day remnants of their imperial legacy linger, casting shadows on the citizens of The Land of Enchantment.
Writer/Performer KJ Sanchez explores that legacy in Highway 47, a deeply personal solo performance about her hometown of Tome, New Mexico, where her family was one of the original 34 settlers in 1734. She writes:
“This is the story of my town, my heritage and my dad. It’s a story that for years my mom encouraged me to write, but not until she was gone (it’s that personal). Highway 47 is about my home town, Tome, New Mexico, which was founded off of a land grant in 1734, my family, which has lived on the land ever since 1734, a feud over the rights to this land that lasted over 15 years, included over 100 lawsuits (cousins suing cousins) and nearly destroyed us all, and finally, it’s about my father – the role he played in this feud and my struggle to come to terms with his actions. Half the town thought he was a hero, half thought he was the devil himself and in this solo performance I tell his story, battle with the fact that I am my father’s daughter….”
Interviewing the entire community of Tomes – both friends of her father as well as his enemies – KJ has created a performance that gives the audience the opportunity to learn about an extraordinary and most likely unknown episode in American history. At the same time she encourages us to think about our own inheritances, mythologies and connections to the land and communities we come from.
American Records was founded in 2010 after the success of its first production ReEntry. Its mission is to work beyond boundaries and create performances about real people from many different parts of the country that is a record of America today.
Highway 47’s creative team includes Lisa Portes (director), Tommer Peterson (set designer), Zach Williamson (sound), Dani Clifford (lights), and Alex Koch, David Tennent and Imagination Media Artists (media).